Faena Forum

by | 25. Jan 2017

Cultural | Feature

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The newly opened Faena Forum, Bazaar, and Park buildings by OMA. Photo © Iwan Baan

By Finn MacLeod

For years, Argentinian real estate developer and arts patron Alan Faena has been slowly acquiring properties in Miami Beach, Florida, an oceanside neighborhood and newfound hub for creatives in the city. Named for its creator and lead investor, the Faena District has quickly transitioned from an undesirable, derelict strip to the home of Miami’s most expensive real estate. A seasoned expert in the development of urban arts corridors, Faena’s new district in Miami Beach has become his most successful, with residential penthouses selling for more than $60 million USD.

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The Faena District includes a hotel and residential tower in addition to the newly opened OMA-designed projects. Image © OMA

The Faena District encompasses a handful of city blocks, and thanks to Faena’s dedication to architectural design, now includes built work by some of the world’s most famous living architects. The culmination of a $1.2 billion investment, the district is now home to a residential tower by Foster + Partners, and most recently, a cluster of buildings dedicated to the arts designed by OMA, under the direction of partner Shohei Shigematsu.

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The Faena Forum creates a striking outline at street level, where a plaza and reflecting pool can be enjoyed underneath. Photo © Bruce Damonte

The Faena Forum, Faena Bazaar, and Faena Park form OMA’s contribution to the district, including expansive and flexible arts space, a restored twentieth-century hotel-cum-events hall, and delicately disguised parking, respectively. Together, the three buildings command attention and activate the street while maintaining distinct visual identities along the burgeoning strip.

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Visitors enter the Forum through a set of extruded stairs leading from underneath the building’s cantilever. Photo © Bruce Damonte

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In true OMA form, the Forum is programmatically complex — a quality disguised by its hurricane-inspired facade, a nod to Miami’s challenging climate. Image © OMA

The crown jewel of the Faena Arts complex, The Forum, anchors two city blocks of OMA-designed Faena buildings. Clad in a stark white facade punctuated by a jagged mosaic of 350 angular windows, the building’s two volumes create a unique set of interior and exterior spaces. A striking form befitting of the building’s entrance, the cylinder rises dramatically above the street, cutting away at its base to create a 46-foot cantilever above a sprawling public plaza and reflecting pool. Blending seamlessly into the central volume, a futuristic black box theatre intersects its cylindrical sibling. A nonlinear cube, the building curves and swells as it expands across the site, as if imitating a performer in motion.

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The Forum extends into a black box theatre — an entirely nonlinear interpretation of the classical performance space. Photo © Iwan Baan

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A soaring gallery window welcomes light into the black box space. Photo © Philippe Ruault

Inside, the building responds intuitively to the unique challenge of programming for an infinite combination of potential uses. Home to an impressively diverse set of spaces, the forum’s flagship spaces include an amphitheatre clad in pink marble, and a 40-foot-tall performance space complete with a dome and oculus, which also houses a balcony for visitors. Reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York, the building’s structure is focused along its periphery to maximize performance space. A spiral staircase wraps the circumference of building, allowing for simultaneous viewing of performances inside and Miami Beach outside. Natural light that pours through the eccentric windows throughout, creating a fascinating dance of light along the curved walls.

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The Forum’s first floor amphitheatre welcomes visitors for performances in-the-round. Photo © Bruce Damonte

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Upstairs, the circular performance space features an oculus and balcony to view from above. Photo © Iwan Baan

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The Forum hosts its first performance under the dome, featuring scenography designed by Shohei Shigematsu of OMA. Photo © Bruce Damonte

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Performers dance under the light of The Forum’s mosaic of angular windows, each casting a unique shadow. Photo © Bruce Damonte

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The Forum’s continuous corridor along its periphery allows views into all spaces, and includes barrier-free access to the public viewing platform at the building’s highest floor. Photo © Iwan Baan

Next door, the nearly-complete Faena Bazaar will house private events inside the former Atlantic Beach Hotel, built in 1939. Also clad in white but entirely distinct from its flamboyant neighbours, the toned-down Bazaar serves to balance the visual energy of the neighboring Forum and Parking buildings. Preserving the building’s historically protected art deco facade, OMA’s intervention is visible only from the inside, where the firm constructed a new central courtyard designed to activate adjacent spaces.

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Faena Park discreetly houses 81 cars above ground and more than 150 below, and includes retail spaces in its ground and roof-level floors. Photo © Iwan Baan

Perhaps the most unexpected architectural gesture in Shigematsu’s Faena arsenal is the building of least programmatic consequence: a parking garage in emperor’s clothes. Sheathed in a perforated precast concrete matrix interrupted by the occasional glass panel, the building appears like a gentle fortress, conveying very little of its true function from the outside. Inside, a sophisticated automated parking system whisks 81 cars into digitally assigned spaces, allowing visitors to shop in Faena Park’s ground and top-level retail stores. For those preferring old fashioned parking, the building includes additional subterranean space for more than 150 cars.

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Performers rehearse inside the black box theatre, which includes panoramic views of Miami Beach. Photo © Bruce Damonte

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At night, the city becomes the backdrop for performances inside the black box theatre. Photo © Bruce Damonte

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Visitors enter the Forum through a grand staircase beginning underneath the building’s cantilever and extending through its highest level, where it becomes a ramp. Photo © Bruce Damonte

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A sprawling mural covers one of The Forum’s inside walls, flanking a staircase. Photo © Bruce Damonte

An ambitious, all-encompassing centre, OMA’s designs for Faena are the culmination of decades the firm has spent refining the design of cultural and performing arts spaces around the world. In programming Faena for art of all kinds, at all scales, Shigematsu created a wunderkammer capable of transforming as its community changes. In designing three interdependent centres in concert, OMA and Faena have all but guaranteed their success, while establishing a significant cultural asset for the people of Miami.

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A public street party inaugurated the buildings, welcoming artists and dignitaries from around the world to Miami’s newest arts centre. Photo © Bruce Damonte


CITYMiami, Florida
ARCHITECTRevuelta Architecture International, PA
Reginald Hough Associates
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTRaymond Jungles Associates